The Collected investigates the complex relationship between patronage and art making, collector and artist, and the dynamics of the creative process in today’s art world. All the paintings in the show are pre-sold, commissioned portraits, where the artist exercised complete artistic authority to manipulate the image according to his own interpretation. The process involved initial collaboration with the commissioner, a performative component in the staging, and the element of surprise in the reveal of the works to the patrons for the first time during the show preview.
In his new body of work, Amir H. Fallah explores classical and renaissance portraiture traditions employing a critical approach by subverting the mechanisms of control. Art history boasts of countless examples of commissioned portraiture, where images conceal the patron’s physical identities and instead feature material possessions as a sign of stature and wealth, and solely the patron determined the final depiction of their identity. In this case, the artist exerts control over aesthetic and conceptual decisions, with the process relying heavily on trust and a powerful agreement to hand over creative authority back to the artist. The paintings will be revealed to the patrons for the first time at the exhibition opening.
Amir visited collectors’ residences in Dubai more than a year ago and staged the portraits by gathering various material belongings from within their homes as markers of their identity, particularly gravitating toward those mundane objects that seem loaded with sentimental meaning – a worn afghan, an idiosyncratic plant, a figurine or running shoes. After carefully assembling the composition through collaborative efforts with the subject, he photographed the setting and used the image as a starting point. The works further changed in his studio when transferred onto the canvas and evolved through his personal interventions and stylized interpretation, telling the patrons’ personal histories through his eyes.